Loss of Innocence

Candy Cigarette by Sally Mann (Conscientious)

The burden of a confession

Bound to her flesh

In moments,

Disordered images,

In a story she wills untold:

Blood roses.

The turn of a key in the lock.

The smell of terror.

A lamp,

Just out of reach.

Words clench. Bowels flinch. Raw.

Recounted matter-of-factly

Like a trip to the grocery store –

Loss of innocence.



Daily Prompt: Take a Chance on Me

Of friendship and loss


Buried in the scent of another day past,

We stayed up late into the night,

Our thoughts drowsy with expectation,

Wriggling around a question mark.

Your lips revolted against the inequity of prose;

Ours was the poetry of youth,

The laughter of hopes untarnished by disappointment and pain

Ours was the courage of an unpunctuated life

Lost on a blank page. 

And as the scaffold fell and worlds came crushing down

That voice lingers still

On skin burnished by the dust of years

So that the sound of our twilight

Reverberates through the fabric of time

And neither land nor sea can hold us long apart,

For you are love.

In the symmetry of a finger tightened on the trigger,

Heart stumbled against air-starved lungs,

A part of me. 


Daily Prompt: Something So Strong


Gone Girl


Gone Girl

It pains: the memory of your caress.

  Limbs ache with loss, craved tenderness undress.

  Of burnished lips, unthinking clasped within,

  Warmth turned to grief and hunger turned to sin.

  Stay awhile longer in my mind’s embrace.

  Don’t smother yet that moment’s lingered grace.

  Let dreams stay true, and truth remain a dream.

  In frenzied gasps to yours again I lean.

  Seismic waves atoned for unremembered past.

  The subtext veiled, your passion could not last.

  And when your softness hardened to a lie,

  The last to know that you were gone was I.

  Death buried all under its bluish light.

  Another fall, another cut mid-flight.


In reply to: http://aopinionatedman.com/2013/10/19/a-nod-to-poe/




21st of January 2011

I was almost run over by a car earlier today, so distracted and disturbed my thoughts have been after a dream concerning you.
You know that I have always been a dreamer and a very vivid one at that, yet the intensity of feeling engendered by a dream would usually subside with the arrival of dawn. How much I wish that this had been the case today!
I woke up around four and was unable to go to sleep again, as my mind’s eye perused the events of that last dream again and again… Whether it was to better understand it, or better remember it so that it may be interpreted later, I do not know.

Since I could not rest, I thought that I would write to you immediately; not to tell you of the dream of course – that would have appeared close to madness – but simply to touch base and reassure myself that you are alive and well. This is precisely what I would have written to you at that early hour, had I any means of contacting you:

“Dear Bertie,
Since there is no RIP message on your page, I can safely presume that you are alive and well. Whilst the first is true of me also, hence this message, the latter is unfortunately not.
For some time now I have been incredibly depressed. Things have compounded – and in my more paranoid states appear to have conspired against me – and I simply do not know what would be best to do.
On the one hand, I desperately need a break. I know this now. Gone is the illusion/delusion that I can be a self-fashioned super-woman. On the other hand, I am concerned that if I do take a prolonged break, I would not be able to return to my thesis at the end of it.
What am I to do? Lose momentum and keep my sanity, or keep the first and lose the latter? It is a catch 22. What do you make of it? How dramatic a return to correspondence, is it not?!
Awaiting your reply and with it, your advice.

This would have been my letter, telling you all and nothing in one breath. Yet you are nowhere to be found and, whilst an all-out search may be regarded as an over-reaction, to do nothing, nothing at all equates to abandoning our friendship. I was ready to do it this morning, in the anger and frustration of the moment, yet I am loath to follow it through now.
Friends come and go, it is true. Yet my feelings for them never fully disappear. They find little crooks in the precipices of one’s soul to jaeger their cruel beaks into, so that the pain of loss remains forever imprinted somewhere in the foreground.
Now that I cannot reach you and can only address you in this pretend-manner I shall be truthful, where otherwise I would have been guarded, and I shall be open even beyond what our amity may have allowed. It is only the echo of my psyche that I am addressing now, nothing more.

… So I will tell you of this dream.
As dreams come, it began ordinarily enough. I arrived at a lecture hall – one that would not be recognisable as having any similarity to a real one, yet which in my dream I appeared to be familiar with – to find out that you were due to give a lecture.
My feelings were multi-layered and somewhat conflicting at that point. I was happy to see you, since it had been so long since I had seen you last – this unhappily has every basis in reality. I was displeased too, since you had not told me of the event, and I may well had missed it. I felt wary as to why this may have been the case, and wondered whether you had been purposefully avoiding me. I also knew the latter to be true.
This both concerned and upset me. It concerned me because I knew it to have been caused by an unfortunate drawback in your career. It upset me, because I hoped you would feel secure enough in our friendship to entrust me with your fears and thus allow me to help, even if only to try and lessen your distress by talking it through.
Furthermore, I was afraid of losing face – for no one wants to admit that they care for their friends more than they are cared for in return. So I made light of it all, and said only this – puzzlingly even for a dream –

“Ah, but you must not forget that I am the seventh child in a large Scottish family, you know”.

This of course makes no sense in the day of light, yet in the dream it appeared to have been intended as a joke, as well as a dig.
It was supposed to make light of the time and space barriers that had arisen between us by means of a joke that may have appeared to others as the extension of an old conversation. In what way may that have been a dig, I am at a loss to explain.
Why seven? There are seven days in a week and, according to Judeo-Christian conventions, the seventh is Sunday. Sunday, in pagan interpretation, is the day of the sun – the star around which our Earth revolves and that made life possible. Was that some ego-centric, narcissistic comment about my importance, and therefore a reproach as to your daring to ignore me, when quite clearly my presence is life-giving?
The Scottish reference is self-evident enough. It reminds you that I am married, that I am therefore unavailable and, of course, in the grand scheme of things – that is my life – you, and your presence/absence are subsequently unimportant.
“Ah, but you must not forget that I am the seventh child in a large Scottish family, you know”.
You smiled at this and appeared to get my meaning. I remember turning back to observe your reaction swiftly as we made our way to the lecture room. You carried some files and books and seemed tired, but altogether happy.

The dream scene dissolved to be replaced by another.

I found myself entering a strange room that appeared to be an old bathroom of the kind that are shared in student campus accommodation, although perhaps bigger in size than any I had come across in the past. It was deserted, and a very melancholy state it was in too.
I began to undress, readying myself for a shower, when I sensed someone’s presence. I covered my chest instinctively and turned to see whether my wits had deceived me. And there you were… a slender figure leaning against the far wall of the bathroom, a lit cigarette in hand.
I find it amazing how vividly I can recall every detail of your appearance, even now, this very moment, as if you had truly stood before me. Yet there was something unseemly about your being there.

Everything that happened next was over in a matter of seconds.

I felt exposed and ran for cover. You laughed… a menacing laugh that turned into a pained one. Your raincoat somehow vanished. A few steps and you were next to me, fully populating my space. I felt invaded and scared.

“I have to do this.” Your words were choked… both unsure and determined.

I could almost see the struggle going on within you at that moment. Your nearness stifled me. There was a faint smell of alcohol and tobacco on your breath. I felt smothered and tried to push you back. We struggled. I managed to get out of you clasp, reached for the blouse, which at this point was soaking and pulled it on as quickly as the sticky fabric allowed. You came after me.
Somehow now I felt I had gained the upper hand and – turning suddenly from a scared runaway into a fuming, belligerent harpy – when you reached out to grab me, I knocked you to the ground.
The entire scene, from your appearance to that moment when you lay, subdued and repentant, on the bathroom floor, is likened in my mind to a re-enactment of Diana and Actaeon. The hunter turned into the hunted, as in a fit of embarrassed fury the goddess punishes the unwitting onlooker.
I cannot recount with exactitude what I said, or rather shouted out, at that point…

“How dare you show up after all of this time … how can you do this to me… I had not one word from you for months, not one… Worried … wondering whether you were even alive… knowing that I had no way of finding out anything, no news, nothing… and then you come here and … what did you expect… ?”

I do not even know whether in that dream I said any of those things out loud. As dreams go, even if I only thought them, you could hear, and were shaking slightly with the intensity of the hurt.
I could not just leave you there, alone and so deeply unhappy. I took your hands in my own and you drew me nearer.

“All I wanted was for you to like me,” you said.

Such simple, straightforward words… How can dreams compress a lifetime of searching, of pointless waiting and disillusion, of unrequited love and disappointment in only nine words?

“You idiot… I love you. How could I possibly not like you?”

My reply was followed by a very short-lived discontinuity in which the two characters of a play appear to have arrived at the happy conclusion of all of their trials.

Confessions of mutual love are expected to be followed by a happy ending for the lovers in question. Not so in the imaginings of my psyche.
For a moment only, a ‘best moments of the future-that was-never-to-be’ followed in film-like sequence. For a moment, we truly believed that it was possible. For a moment, we held on to the illusion.
But the moment –however intensely felt – was consummated, and left us to be hit by the stone-cold reality.
It was never to be anything more than a dream – a dream within a dream. We were not free to do as we pleased.

“I am married. I cannot do this. I cannot be with you, however much I may want it.”
You seemed about to protest, but only sighed resignedly.

Neither of us was free. We would do ‘what was right’, whatever that may be, irrespective of the consequences to ourselves.
Our lips were less than a thread apart, and yet… that thread extended like a magnetic field, an invisible force keeping us forever apart, just out of reach of one another.

This was my dream, as fully as I can recount it at present. It has tormented my thoughts ever since.
I wish I could let it go. I want it expunged from my memory. I want this torturous pain torn free from the depths of my viscera. I had almost forgotten you. You were little more than a faint memory until my unconscious resurfaced to bane my days with those feelings that ought to have remained forever unexpressed.
What am I to do now? How do I wipe this horizon away? How am I to regain that internal balance that had kept my mind, my conscience at peace with itself? I miss you, Bertie. I miss you, and I am so angry with you. I am angry with your not being here, with ever meeting you, with not being able to see you and have you near now.
I will never dare tell you any of this. I wish you happy, and hope that you will never be similarly tormented.
No. This is a lie. A part of me hopes that you are kept awake by the memory of me, that your dreams bring me as vividly to you as they had brought you to me. Yet I do wish you well, my dear, dearest friend.



“Kill me then! I never asked to be born anyway!”


I am the girl who ought never been born.

Was I meant to know this, or did it slip up in anger? There was someone else loved for some twelve joyful weeks. Another body grasped at life, cells dividing, multiplying to bring forth the beat of another’s heart.

An elder brother or sister, I thought at first. But no… That could not be. My existence relied on their having perished. I was an interloper, colonising a womb still grieving for its loss, stepping over bloodied memories and anchoring myself into its wall when the coast got clear. It may have protested, but it did not manage to shift me. I wedged in; not a quitter me. A survivor.

I did not ask to be born.

How often did I feel it as a child; and thought of it more often still, though seldom speaking out. There were slipups however.


It was a sunbathed morning in June. The war was afoot. The White Queen marshalled her pawns in a straight line and then proceeded to inspect her cavalry. The knights’ armour gleamed as white as the coats of their steeds. In the distance, across the carpeted fur-land, the Black Queen was similarly occupied. The Kings took their siestas. They weren’t much good these kings: could hardly move for old age, and even when they did they were bound to get themselves into more trouble that was worth anyone’s while.

‘Twas time to advance. The queens met on neutral ground – at Giantdoll-Hill – and deliberated which of their parties ought to make the first move. The custom, according to grandfather, was for the White to go first, but that struck the Black Queen as somewhat unfair. They appealed to my wisdom and experience. A new set, I suppose I did have a few years of know-how on them. After thoughtful consideration, I decided that the best way out of the conundrum would be to flip a coin. Let fate play her hand. I’d seen father do it. It looked like fun.

Problem was, I had no coin of my own, and mother had to be kept in the dark about my play. I’d been instructed to tidy up my room an age ago, and she would be none too pleased if she discovered that instead of a clean-up, I opted to add to the mess.

You should never-ever think about things you do not want to happen. No sooner did I think of her, that she presented herself on the doorstep: a giant urn, both hands implanted on broad hips, one flaming cheek skyward and another touching the parquetted floors of Lucifer’s homestead.

“I’ve had it with you. Look at this mess. Why can’t you just do as I say?”

She hurried forward and gathered the chess pieces in her lap.

Disgruntled, I plunked myself into the middle of the room, determined not to lift one finger in her aid. Mother looked worn. Something in my attitude irked her. I knew I ought to help her and that I’d pay for it later if I kept it up, but I was in a combative mood and beat the guilt-tripped reason into silence. At last, mother lost it.

“Selfish girl! You’ll do what I say or – I swear to God, just as I gave birth to you – I’ll kill you with my own two hands!”

“Kill me then! I never asked to be born anyway!”


I am the girl who lost her mother.

It took me years to find my way back to her. I blamed her for many things, bad things that happened to us. I blamed her too for failing to keep me in the dark about them. I didn’t want to grow up. Not then. Not that way.

She might’ve been a better daughter, that other girl who didn’t make it through.

It was easier to numb the pain, pretend it wasn’t there. I wanted to be free of it, even if she couldn’t be.


Memento Mori

The grass was soft underfoot, freshly mowed.  Ismay breathed in its fragrance: her favourite smell. It reminded her of her grandfather, the long walks and horse rides he took her on when she was a child.

For many years after her grandfather died, there were a few dozen smells that reminded her of him. She could still remember the smell of his cheek after a hard days’ work at the farm: sweat mingled with a trace of rolled up tobacco. His hands were earthy when he patted her head.

His scent underwent subtle changes through the seasons: baked apple, cured ham, dandelions, pea shoots, sunflowers, grapes.

Time had been cruel. It robbed her of what she held dear. And little by little, it picked away her memories too. She was grateful that some still lingered, even if only as brushstrokes, impressions, moments captured within.




I feel my body unpicked –

A multitude of fibres

Each strained, each wrenched apart.


A part is pain,

Another loss

Of love newfound

Cast away.


A way just out of reach

Stands in full view obscured

I stretch, yet cannot follow


For low the fall…

Foregone all hope

Of certain ground

Lead astray.


A stray remembrance haunts

Of words remained unspoken

A longing ever present


Pre sent in blood,

Penned painfully.

What’s left is


For my grandfather

I stretch my fingers forth

Towards the frozen ground,

There just beyond my reach

Your stilted body lies.


No matter how much hope

To turn the tables round

Had been within instilled

I know it was just lies.


Your hands will never move

Whole lands to have me near,

Your whispers will not soothe

Away some naïve fright


You will not draw me closer

So that to better hear

My sorrows all, my hopes,

Into the star-lit night.


I cherished every moment

Life gave me at you side.

With every breath, still treasure

Your memory and love.


I wish I still believed

That heaven awaits yonder…

But losing you has robed me

Of faith in the above.